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The Wednesday Wars Hardcover – May 21, 2007

323 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Johnstone brings to life one of the most endearing characters to come along in some time. Holling Hoodhood is starting seventh grade in 1967. It is a time of change, not just for Holling as he begins his journey into adolescence, but for the world around him as well. The war in Vietnam is raging and the deaths of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy hang heavy on the American consciousness by the end of the school year. And for Holling, the world of nascent relationships lies before him, not to mention, baseball, camping and the constant excitement, wonder and terror of being 11 at such a volatile time.Johnstone's first-person narration perfectly captures Holling's progression from an angst-filled yet innocent boy, to a wiser, self-aware young man. His reading is touching, funny and insightful; he manages to bring the listener back to a time—real or nostalgically re-imagined, at least—when the crack of a bat against a ball in Yankee Stadium or sharing a Coke with a girl at the Woolworth's counter was all any boy could want. This is a lovely, heartfelt novel, read with as much care as the author used to create it. Ages 10-up. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* On Wednesday afternoons, while his Catholic and Jewish schoolmates attend religious instruction, Holling Hoodhood, the only Presbyterian in his seventh grade, is alone in the classroom with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, who Holling is convinced hates his guts. He feels more certain after Mrs. Baker assigns Shakespeare's plays for Holling to discuss during their shared afternoons. Each month in Holling's tumultuous seventh-grade year is a chapter in this quietly powerful coming-of-age novel set in suburban Long Island during the late '60s. The slow start may deter some readers, and Mrs. Baker is too good to be true: she arranges a meeting between Holling and the New York Yankees, brokers a deal to save a student's father's architectural firm, and, after revealing her past as an Olympic runner, coaches Holling to the varsity cross-country team. However, Schmidt, whose Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (2005) was named both a Printz and a Newbery Honor Book, makes the implausible believable and the everyday momentous. Seamlessly, he knits together the story's themes: the cultural uproar of the '60s, the internal uproar of early adolescence, and the timeless wisdom of Shakespeare's words. Holling's unwavering, distinctive voice offers a gentle, hopeful, moving story of a boy who, with the right help, learns to stretch beyond the limitations of his family, his violent times, and his fear, as he leaps into his future with his eyes and his heart wide open. Engberg, Gillian

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 990L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Clarion Books; First Edition edition (May 21, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618724834
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618724833
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (323 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #195,918 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gary D. Schmidt is the author of the Newbery Honor and Printz Honor book Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy. His most recent novel is The Wednesday Wars. He is a professor of English at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

99 of 104 people found the following review helpful By Bookworm Teacher on November 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I could tell you all of the wonderful things I love about this book, but I'll tell you the two things that have most convinced me that this is a great book worth reading.

I am reading this aloud to my high school sophomores on Fridays. Their reactions:
1) They laugh out loud while I'm reading the story.
2) They beg me to read more and talk about it on other days of the week, and have told me they like it.

If that's not a ringing endorsement for a book, I don't know what is.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Miller on June 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
War may be raging in Vietnam, but Holling has his own battles to fight. When the rest of his class leaves for Hebrew school or Catechism every Wednesday afternoon, he's stuck in class with the fearsome Mrs. Baker, who's either out to murder him or slowly torture him with Shakespeare. Add in a pair of pet rats gone wild, an ill-fated cream puff incident, and an unfortunate pair of tights with feathers on the you-know-what, and you've got a masterful story full of schoolyard scrapes and a surprising core of heart that grabs hold and won't let go.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By N. S. VINE VOICE on May 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After now reading THE WEDNESDAY WARS three times, it remains for me the book of the year and my pick for the next Newbery Medal.

"Toads, beetles, bats, light on you!"

In September of 1967, in the suburbs of Long Island, Holling Hoodhood begins seventh grade at Camillo Junior High. Holling happens to be the only Presbyterian student in Mrs. Baker's class, and so on Wednesday afternoons, "when at 1:45 sharp, half of my class went to Hebrew School at Temple Beth-El, and, at 1:55, the other half went to Catechism at Saint Adelbert's," Mrs. Baker finds herself responsible for dealing with her one remaining student.

Holling, who believes Mrs. Baker hates him because of this situation, spends that first month's Wednesday afternoons completing classroom chores that his teacher assigns him. "The Wednesdays of September passed in a cloudy haze of chalk dust." But, after hilarious and unintended consequences result from Holling's missteps in carrying out several of his assigned tasks, Mrs. Baker decides to shift gears and spend subsequent Wednesday afternoons "doing" Shakespeare with her student.

It turns out that there are also hilarious and unintended consequences that result from this new course of action. For while Holling undertakes his experiencing of the Bard with the belief that, "Teachers bring up Shakespeare only to bore students to death," it turns out that he recognizes some terrific stories when he reads them and -- thanks to Caliban -- recognizes some great new (old) curses which he sets to practicing until, in times of great adversity, they leap as naturally from his tongue as do the phrases that are more commonly heard amongst today's young rapper wannabes:

"She put her red pen down.
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125 of 157 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on June 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Praise, like profanity, has to be doled out carefully. If a reviewer is a particularly enthusiastic sort (ahem!) and prefers to lavish cuddles and kisses on every book that crosses their plate then what exactly are they supposed to do when something truly extraordinary appears before them? Use up all your good stuff too early in the season and you've nothing left. Fortunately for me, I took precautions. I've been on permanent Newbery Lookout this year. Anything and everything that might be a contender, I've snatched up mighty quick in the hopes of getting some early buzz going. And while it's been a nice year, I think everyone will agree that the Spring 2007 season has turned out to be fairly so-so. Nobody is talking about any books with any real passion quite yet. That is, until whispers started to surround "The Wednesday Wars" by Gary Schmidt. Whispers. Murmurs. Over-exaggerated winks accompanied by sharp elbow pokes to the ribcage. So when I finally managed to get my sticky little hands on a copy I had to do the standard Reviewer Cleansing of the Mind. I had to tell myself soothing things before I began along the lines of, "It's okay if you don't like it. Forget all the people who've already loved it. Clear your mind. Expand your soul. Breathe." Then I picked it up and forgot all of that. Good? Brother, you don't know the meaning of the word till you read this puppy. For those of you out there who think Gary D. Schmidt was done robbed ROBBED of a Newbery for his, Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, I think we've found ourselves something new to root for.

Mrs. Baker hates Holling Hoodhood. There's no two ways about it, as far as he can tell.
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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Ken C. on January 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Oddly, THE WEDNESDAY WARS is probably going to appeal more to adults who came of age in the 50s and 60s than it is to young adults. And oddly, despite a lot of positive writing, the overall story will, at times, drag for younger readers -- especially if they are in the "reluctant reader" category.

Let's start with what's good about this novel: It's clean, wholesome, charming, and one might even say, quaint. Although set in the turbulent years of 1967-68 on Long Island, the book seems more like a snapshot out of the 50's -- all Eisenhower tranquility, all "Leave It to Beaver" good fun. Yes, there's mention of Vietnam, nuclear bomb drills at school, and the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, but it's more in name than in spirit and remains stubbornly remote from the story and the characters themselves (except for protagonist Holling Hoodhood's older sister, the lightly-sketched Heather, who is a Kennedy fan).

I liked the humorous tone, the plot's use of Shakespeare (poor 7th-grader Holling must memorize parts of the Bard's work during Wednesday afterschool sessions), and the character of Mrs. Baker -- the prototypical "teacher we all remember throughout life." What threw me was the character of Holling. He's way too mature and precocious for his age. In the one moment of family crisis, he acts wise WAY beyond his years and acts like a seasoned father, not a 7th-grade kid. His interests, words, and opinions? Also very adult-ish, despite Schmidt's game inclusion of such hijinks as 8th graders wanting to beat him up because he wears tights in a Shakespeare scene and because he outruns his elder classmen in a track meet.
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